Close call at Reagan National: Radar Replay and Air Traffic Control Audio

On Aug. 2, three commuter jets operated by US Airways were involved in a near collision near Reagan National Airport, in Washington DC.

Because of an Air Traffic Control error an incoming flight flew head-on at two planes that had just taken off. According to the Washington Post, the approaching plane (Flight 3329, an Embraer 175 ) and the first of the departing ones (Flight 3071, an Embraer 135) were closing the 1.4 miles between them at a combined speed of 436 mph, meaning that they were about 12 seconds apart (although seemingly not in collision course) when the tower controller recognized her mistake and instructed the incoming plane to turn to the right (180 heading).

In the following video you can follow the whole scene and listen to the radio comms between the Tower and the flights (with callsign “Brickyard”, used by Republic Airlines, a US Airways contractor).

After perfoming a large, modified, 360° turn for a second attempt, Flight 3329 came to a safe landing.

The problem may have been caused by a communication failure between the TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control) and Tower: the runway direction had been changed to accomodate a wind shift, but the change was not properly coordinated since Tower was still  using runway 1 (northbound) for departures whereas the incoming planes approached the airport from North.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.